Yoga In Chiang Mai

Starting your yoga journey in Chiang Mai can be an absolutely wonderful experience!

I still remember when I first arrived in Chiang Mai a few years back. I came on the advice of a good friend who told me he had found  hidden gem in North Thailand, a place where he could stay for months at a time if visa’s were not a problem. He strongly advised that I investigate and explore this hidden gem as soon as possible.

At first I had some serious doubts. Not being a big fan of Bangkok, I thought to myself what could make the second largest city in Thailand any different and  so special? After all Thailand is known for its tropical island’s with white sandy beaches, not for its city life. But lucky for me I took the advice and went to explore.

The Beauty of Chiang Mai

Before I knew it I was exploring down hundreds of tiny soi’s scattered through the streets of Chiang Mai astounded that this could be Thailand’s second biggest city when still I felt like I was somewhere by the beach! I visited many of the amazing temples scattered throughout the city and marveled at their architecture and beauty, sometimes sitting peacefully to watch the monks go about their daily activities in a calm almost medatative state.

After a few days and some confidence building on my Motorcycle I started doing day trips out into the surrounding mountains and countryside, visiting Doi Sutep and Doi Ithanon the two most well-known mountains in the area and exploring other natural wonders like waterfalls and natural hot springs way off the beaten tracks.

It seemed I to had fallen victim to… The Rose of the North

Still quite unkown to many travelers, who prefer the sunny beaches of Thailand’s southern islands, Chiang Mai has so much to offer and seems to attract more so the people who like to avoid the high end tourism of South and many solo travelers on their personal journey of discovery.

The Chiang Mai Effect

Although the city can become busy and noisy at times, Chiang Mai never seems to lose its charm and uniqueness. And as many people can agree, its seems to bring a peaceful and tranquil vibe upon its visitors opening them to a slow paced quiet lifestyle that more often than not starts to spark interest in Yoga, meditation, qi gong,  thai chi and other spiritual practices, which by no coincidence at all, are all available to practice and learn in here Chiang Mai

It seems Chiang Mai has slowly become a hub for all of these spiritual practices, and to be honest you cannot go wrong here. There are some very good Yoga studios and there are even better Yoga teachers. Experienced  teachers who don’t just practice yoga for the 1 or 2 hours they spend on their yoga mat, but teachers who continue to practice yoga when off the mat through their day to day lives dedicated to spreading their experiences and positivity with others.

I remember doing my first Yoga in Chiang Mai and thinking to m self “ahhh so this is real yoga” I loved it. I found that Yoga in the western world can be extremely exercised based rushing through the asanas as if the faster you went the better it was and completely missing the spiritual side of the practice all together. It was not until I started my Yoga in Chiang Mai that I really started to learn and progress to the point where I felt I needed to be able to practice yoga on my own without the guidance of a teacher. This led me down the path or learning to teach yoga in India which is a story for another day J

Have a Go!

So if you are visiting Chiang Mai and you are even just remotely interested in yoga, meditation, qi gong, thai chi, reiki or any other spiritual practices I urge you take some time to slow down and explore that interest and see what it might come from it.

Try something new, change your mindset and change what you thought you knew. After all you’re in the perfect place for it

NEED MOTIVATION? WE’VE GOT SOME TIPS FOR YOU!

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Feeling burnt out from your busy routine and not feeling motivated to work out?

Here are some tips to get you back into it!

Firstly, it is important to remember that there is no perfect time to give yourself a fresh start. It can happen whenever you want it to. The reset has to start within you. This will require a clean mindset, a healthy environment to work in, aspiration and focus.

Write down your specific goals in order to have them in sight (or even pin up a picture). This way you can constantly refer back to them. Large goals can seem intimidating, for this reason it is helpful to break it into smaller goals. Celebrating the achievements, whether it is short term or long term will help keep the progress going. It’ll motivate you to keep performing at your best and help you grow as an individual. Note that your reward for yourself should be proportionate to the goal achieved.

Charting your progress generally helps to keep the progression fun. Set aside time to workout in your calendar and it’ll leave you accountable. Plus, crossing off each session is always fun and satisfying.

Surround yourself with people who are highly motivated. Talking to people who are doing what you want to will give you some drive. If they are capable of doing it, so are you. Grabbing a workout buddy will also help keep you accountable. Not only will they feel obliged to motivate you, you are also responsible for theirs!

Lastly, consistently focus on what you want. Take small steps each day and “stay in the game”. You will never regret a workout.

Doing something will always be better than doing nothing.

Take care, yogis!

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Unexpected discoveries In Thailand Yoga Retreat

By Kirsi Astren

Gabe Yoga

“The Chinese Yin-Yang philosophy teaches that everything has to be counter-weight. There is no night without day. All opposites alternate and this create a balance of life, where things are as they should be.” I was soaking in the information and trying to relax in the yin pose called swan.

“Each Yin prepares us for the next Yang movement. Night prepares us for the next day and deep relaxation enhances peak performance, from easy to difficult, from dark to light. The dynamic yoga needs counterweight passive, long-Yin exercises.” What did he say in the beginning of the practice? Yin Yoga was not a relaxing practice? It is quiet, but challenging. The insights Gabe was providing sure helped with the strain.

Yin Yoga counteracts the excessive sitting we do in the Western world.  When my daughter and I visited a local Thai home, we did not see the chairs or sofas at all. All sitting took place on the floor.

It was my daughter, Julliana, who recommended we seek out Thailand as our first destination to travel together. She wanted yoga to be a significant part of the program but without the power of it all. After an extensive research she discovered the Finnish resort, Aava Resort & Spa, which is set in Thailand’s secluded, and still undiscovered, Khanom region. In addition to the high praise about their diverse wellness program, we were surprised to discover our week fell on the same week as the yoga retreat by American Yoga Master GabeYoga!

I thought I’d attended other Yin classes in Helsinki, where positions were held for long periods. However Gabe’s sequences, the lapping waves, soft music and his stories that fed the imagination left me feeling incredibly good and immensely renewed. Without using notes, books, or the Internet, Gabe shared anecdotes from old Buddhist wisdom, facts about the effects of yoga on health, Sufi poetry, ancient Yoga texts from what I later found out were part of the ancient Upanishads, as well as spiritual humor in the form of jokes.

Yin Yoga was part of the evening yoga classes, and the day began with a dynamic Yang-style, BikYasa practice. A yoga practice, developed by GabeYoga, that combines principles of Hot 26 and Vinyasa Yoga, perfectly balanced with silence and modern music. BikYasa has been the most attended yoga class at the Helsinki Festival and is offered at the popular Yin Yoga Studio throughout Helsinki. Julliana and I discovered that BikYasa activated our muscles in a most intelligent and powerful manner, establishing an energizing feeling to start their day.

As the week progressed, we experienced a remarkable development. Our bodies began to bend at places that only saw freedom as teenagers while our minds discovered a calm and peaceful satisfaction.

Aava was born by chance when friends told Kati and Atte (the owners) about the magnificent and quiet region of Khanom. Soon the couple traveled there 70 kilometers from Surat Thani airport by a local rickshaw called ‘tuk tuk.’

Khanom is a fishing village; with a maximum contribution is an authentic Thai country life. Long sandy beaches are among the longest in Thailand, and the tops of coconut trees towering to the sky. The area and its surroundings offer amazing nature experiences, which are easy to access.

The yoga classes felt as if they were designed just for the group and each experience was inspiring and unique. When I interviewed Gabe to hear how he achieved this unique ability I discovered he talks in a clear, firm voice and takes advantage of the full spectrum of yoga history and philosophy which include the Upanishads, ancient Indian poetry or prose texts, explanations and guidelines in life. Gabe skillfully cultivates them as a part of yoga classes as a whole. He told us these different ways to describe the divinity, beauty and love are the most essential part of yoga instruction.

I also discovered Gabe tailors the journey to the relevant people and uses his teachings to illuminate participants’ growth.

He started practicing yoga from the spiritual side and emphasizes it over and over. At age 19, as a psychology university student, he became interested in yoga philosophy and went on to get more information on India.

Gabe often, and graciously, credits various teachers. Yin Yoga’s Paul Grilley shed light on the power of connective tissue, while Pichest Boonthume, Master Thai Massage teacher, evolved Gabe’s understanding of Yin ideas’ origin with Thai Massage spreading through to China. From Ashtangi David Swenson, Gabe made the connection between the physical practice and philosophy of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras; from Tim Miller, with whom he practiced Mysore for two years, he learned “yoga is not about the pose.” Then, from Anthony “Prem” Carlisi, Gabe learned about Ayurveda and through Pattabhi Jois he learned, “Yoga is to find God.”

For my own divine moment – I walked over to Julliana and gave her the kind of hug that only a mother can.

 

Yogic Living Through Non Violence

Yoga, as it has evolved and gained popularity in Western societies, has come to signify the many yoga postures or asanas that can be combined to create a challenging fitness routine. However, the ancient tradition and practice of yoga can provide us with much more than the widely known physical benefits. It can actually change our perception of reality and help us lead happier and more fulfilling lives.

The first step in understanding these lesser-known benefits is to understand the nature of how and where we might be looking to improve our lives.

The universe has a rhythm and harmony which we tend to detach ourselves from, most significantly when we view the world through a materialistic and individualistic lens, or many other lenses of the human experience. This sense of detachment, and the unfulfilled feeling that we can do and experience so much more, often without knowing how, results in a kind of suffering or discomfort, known as dukka in the Yogic tradition. Often, what the world has to offer us is quite different from the way that we experience it.

Indian guru, and founder of Ashtanga yoga, Patanjali gives us a guide in the 8 Limbs of Yoga as outlined in “The Yoga Sutra” to help us re-connect with the true nature of the world. While asanas have become the face of yoga and are a bit more accessible, the 8 Limbs of Yoga delves deeper. Pantanjali’s text provides us with a practical system that helps us reach our potential and relieve our suffering. The 8 limbs are not stages or phases of self-development, but rather different categories of techniques and tools that we can implement simultaneously into our everyday lives. These teachings are the essence of yoga and what makes them so valuable to devote our time to each day.

The Yoga Sutra offers an invitation to examine and adopt what works for us, to come into harmony with ourselves and our surroundings. The first limb or set of actions Patanjali describes teaches us how to do just that. Yamas, which literally translates to “control”, refers to a type of moral control that we can cultivate in our daily lives when interacting with our environment and the people in our lives. Within the scope of Yamas, Patanjali provides 5 recommendations, the first of which is to practice “non-violence”.  

 

Defining violence will help us become more aware of its different forms, and how we can minimize it in our daily lives. Violence can include the following:

  1. Physical Violence: When we think of violence, of course we think of physical violence. In other words, when we physically harm or kill someone or some creature, including animals, the environment and the earth. While part of our existence is an ingrained violence, for example breathing in microorganisms or unknowingly stepping on ants, many other types of physical violence can be actively avoided.

 

  1. Mental Violence: The second concept of violence is the violence of our thoughts, intentions and beliefs. This is relevant because others can often sense negativity and internal states of mind. While not outwardly expressed, these internal feelings can have a powerful effect on others.
  1. Emotional Violence: Emotional violence occurs when we allow our negative emotions, such as frustration, jealousy, etc. to control our thoughts, speech and actions. These often manifest as harmful or hateful expressions in speech such as gossiping or hurtful words.

 

Expressions of non-violence in all these forms hold us back. Both internally when we hold on to negative thoughts and externally when we act on those thoughts, we hurt ourselves and others – all life forms, because we are all inter-connected. When we actively practice non-violence, we can pull ourselves out of our suffering, restoring happiness and peace.

 

It is no coincidence that the first recommendation of Yamas is to practice non-violence. When we understand how broadly it can be applied, we can understand our own being. We can reflect on, express and experience the inherent oneness with ourselves and our surroundings that yoga wants to lead us to. We realize that there is no difference between the self and others; that inner peace and happiness depend on our ability to actively radiate peacefulness from within to the outside world. This is the foundation of relieving ourselves from our suffering – to find our connection to everything and nurture it.

 

Through the practice of nonviolence, it can become possible to remove the lens through which we may have been viewing the world, seeing ourselves as a separate entity. While separate, we may think that we are treated and must act individually to protect the self, and that some forms of violence are a means of doing so.

 

It is not a passive practice; the point is not to avoid violence, but to actively treat others well, trying whenever possible to trade it for love and compassion. We can also practice it at all times, not like the asanas where we need extended time or to isolate ourselves in our practice. Practicing non-violence can be done in every moment. It is part of every aspect of breathing, living, and existing.  

Gandhi provides us with one of the greatest examples of applying non-violence.  He reminds us that when it may seem easy to give up and turn the other cheek, this is not a successful long-term approach. Positive change comes with time, sometimes through a slow, grassroots revolution.

written by Kobi Siman Tov is the co-founder of Vagabond Temple in Cambodia where he is also a yoga and meditation practitioner and teacher, a nutritional and holistic health counsellor and life coach.

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